Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Super Massive Black Hole "Beyond Human Comprehension"... Or, How I Suck as a Parent

I'm a horrible parent. 

I say this because I lie to my daughter.

Tis true.  I constantly tell my precious, inquisitive little squidlet such lies about life, death and the nature of the universe.  That all dogs go to heaven.  That the North Pole is currently populated by industrious gnomes.  That Bikini Bottom is real.

That black holes aren't.

I know black holes are real, even if scientists can't come out and officially agree with me.  But, much like Cthulhu and zombies and mummies and yams, I tell her that they're not real, as confirmation of their actual existence would sent her tittering down a fearful spiral that would keep her up for weeks (all but ending "mommy and daddy time").  And unlike the other dark creatures listed (aside from maybe the yams), she truly is DEATHLY afraid of black holes.  And why shouldn't she be?  She's seen their blind destructive wrath through the power of impressive animation, after apparently intently watching - unbeknownst to me, mind you - the "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking" ep on the viability of black holes, when I thought she was merely playing with her Littlest Petshop toys near the television.  But no, she watched the entire thing.  In silence.  She must have sat there in meeping terror, a hat-wearing plastic snail clutched limply in her hand. 

We didn't talk about it that night, as I think it had to settle in.. Marinate in her smallish but savvy six year old brain for a while.  Correlate a few of her newly acquired contents.  Finally, several days later, while we were in the car, she told me that she had a nightmare that her room, and her toys, and our house and the entire earth got sucked into an enormous black hole.  Her voice quivered a bit when she told me this, and I could tell that she was more frightened than when she talks about monsters that haunt all dark rooms or the dreaded "wolf behind the mountain" (come on, her grandparents - and their stories - are Armenian). 

Then she asked me... "Daddy, are black holes real?"  I looked up into my rearview mirror and found her with my eyes, all small and hunched and double belted in the back seat, and did what any horrible parent who loves their kids would do.  I lied through my sizable teeth.

"No, baby... Black holes aren't real.  They're just a theory that scientists like to talk about.  Like in one daddy's stories."

She sat up a little straighter, looked out the window with her big, beautiful, browns, and said, "I love the moon."

Sadly, I'm an even worse friend than I am a parent, and am here to tell you today that black holes ARE real, and they want to eat you.

Maybe one just like this:

Beyond Human Comprehension: The Most Massive Black Hole in the Observable Universe - An Event Horizon 20 Billion Kilometers Across

The black hole at the center of galaxy M87 fifty million light-years away is the most massive black hole for which a precise mass has been measured -6.6 billion solar masses. Using the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, a team of astronomers calculated the black hole’s mass, which is vastly larger than the black hole in the center of the Milky Way, which is about 4 million solar masses. Astronomer Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas, Austin, said that the black hole’s event horizon,  20 billion km across “could swallow our solar system whole.”
Let's just hope that my daughter's non-belief in galaxy-eating, undead stars lasts just as long as her belief in the Easter Bunny.  Longer, even...

I want her dreams to be magically sweet until they're not anymore.  She has plenty of time to join the rest of us later.


  1. I will try to find the link, but I somehow landed on a blog that juggles the subjects of roleplaying games and being Mormon. Aaaaanyway, there was this passionate argument against the existence of black holes, all from a religious perspective... if I find it again I will come back and share the link.

    I for one share your daughter's fear of black holes. Cosmic horror at its finest... and not one tentacle involved! And for the record, I am more scared of Littlest Petshop than I am of black holes!

    My wife and I are expecting and our daughter should be here sometime around the middle of April. I am looking forward to seeing her absorb the world around her and share with me her own unique perspective on the things she sees. There is nothing truer than the words spoken by a child, which I find refreshing, having spent so much time with adults. :-)

  2. First of all, major congrats, Shane, to you and your wife on your little incubating Mangus! Children are such a blessing, and watching them grow, and absorb and process - and then interpret - the world around them is truly an extraordinary experience.

    Secondly, a cosmic debate from a religious viewpoint sounds riveting. As someone who grew up in a staunchly Evangelical household, I'm endlessly fascinated by how very religious people view factual phenomena not covered in the Old Testament. I'd love to read the debate, prefaced by a quick SAN roll on the overall theme of that blog.

    And trust me, brother, you'll get very familiar very quickly with all sorts of bizarre and often horrifying children's toys and songs and cartoons... My God, the cartoons...

  3. Thanks, Ted! I will see if I can find that link and share it with you.

  4. I love this post, on so many levels... and boy, can I relate. :)

  5. We're all the worst, Mike. The absolute worst.